West Cork large whale update...now with video!

16th Dec 2008 Another whale watch trip in testing conditions off Galley Head with Colin Barnes yesterday 14th Dec. produced more world class sightings of minke, humpback and fin whales. Despite moderate conditions, we observed at least 3-4 minkes, 5-6 humpbacks and upwards of a dozen fin whales, all in the same waters both SW and SE of Galley Head.

Given the evidence of large volumes of "whale food", i.e. sprats there is every likelyhood that the whale activity may remain till the Chrismas holidays which would be fantastic for those who've not had an opportunity to get out to witness this activity in recent months. Again, you will be up against the humpbacks "biological clock" which will drive them to more southerly latitudes, so I'd be inclined to go at the 1st opportunity, as once they leave, they'll be gone for a long time.


During the trip we photographed at least 5 individual humpbacks, of which at least three are known (HBIRL 1, 6 & 9). One very interesting re-sighting is of the 1st humpback whale listed on the Irish Humpback whale catalogue, which is HBIRL1. This animal was first filmed by Eoin O' Mahoney off the Kinsale Gas Fields in Sept 1999 and was again photographed during the last big humpback whale influx in Nov 2004. So it's great to see it return after a four year gap. Interestingly it was seen travelling with #HBIRL6 (photo above).

In the new year, we'll have more time to further analyse these images to see if we can make sense of the associations we are observing between known individuals.

During the trip HBIRL9 performed a full breach within 100m of the MV Holly Jo. This is truly one of the great wildlife spectacles. If only they'd give us a little prior notice or breach repeatedly like they do in the tropics, so we could properly capture the moment on camera. See yet another photo of humpback "post breach" splash...but you get the idea of just how impressive it is.

Although the trend is clearly a peak in November fin whale sightings, it is by no means without precedent to have fin whales in this area at this time of year. The IWDG database contains several validated sighting records in recent years of fin whales here in January and into February. If you are interested in learning more about fin and humpback whale distribution in Irish waters, check www.iwdg.ie You will find the "advanced search" facility a most useful resource and research tool.

Here is a video from this trip accompanied by the "singing" humpback whales recorded last week. These amazing recordings made by our colleague Eugene Mc Keown of Biospheric Engineering are the 1st time humpback whales have been recorded singing in any inshore European waters. We think you'll really enjoy this clip, as we never thought humpbacks sang outside their "tropical " breeding grounds.

NOTE: The sounds presented in this video have been edited and are not presented in the format they were recorded, neither do they relate to the whales surfacing behaviour



Anyway that's the update. A huge thanks to everyone who has contributed images to IWDG in recent days. Despit